That’s the rationale behind two new high school lesson plans where students earn math and science credits while learning to manage largemouth bass and white-tailed deer, said a Texas AgriLife Extension Service wildlife expert.
There is a need for improvement in math and science scores, according to Dr. Billy Higginbotham, AgriLife Extension fisheries and wildlife specialist. A 2009 analysis by the National Center for Education Statistics found that the “average mathematics literacy score” of U.S. 15-year-old students in the was in the bottom quarter of 29 participating nations.
In science literacy, U.S. 15-year-old students place in the bottom third.
The problem is not that U.S. students are lazy or unable to learn math and science; it may be a more a matter of information overload, Higginbotham said. As with all teenagers, half the battle is presenting lessons that they find relevant and interesting.
“Today’s youth are increasingly aware of environmental and natural resource issues,” he said. “These lessons will help establish the relationships of real world habitat management that benefit a diversity of terrestrial and aquatic species found in Texas ecosystems.”
The lesson plans are now available from Texas AgriLife Bookstore and contain everything high school math and science teachers need in a notebook and CD.
“B-6206, Managing Largemouth Bass in Texas Ponds: A High School Math and Science Curriculum” includes a 324-page loose-leaf notebook and CD for $50. Included is a 24-inch by 30-inch poster of common Texas fish species, and a CD containing the full curriculum and a PowerPoint presentation.
“B-6227, Managing the White-Tailed Deer: A Wildlife and Fish Management Curriculum for High School Math and Science Students” includes a 352-page loose-leaf notebook, a large poster of deer-food plants and CD for $50. Included on the CD is the full curriculum, a PowerPoint activity and two videos.
The AgriLife Bookstore also offers the CD for either curriculum alone for $19.99.
“Each lesson plan includes its Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills correlation and activities that allow students to put their classroom activities into action,” Higginbotham said. “They can teach the whole set of lesson plans within one of the curriculums, or they can pick and choose individual lessons so as to complement their existing curriculum.”
Higginbotham is probably best known to Texas teachers for his multi-media elementary school-enrichment modules, such as “City Critters,” “Something’s Fishy,” “The White-tailed Deer” and “Wildlife Success Stories and Endangered Species” that target third through fifth grades.
“The new plans take some of the same subject matter and rachet it up a couple of notches to make it relevant to high school curricula,” he said. “They teach the relationships between data collection, analysis and implementation.” Along with the math and science, students will learn three essential components of wildlife management, Higginbotham said. The components are the nature of the fish or animal population, the habitat and how people interact with and use the species.
The lesson plans stimulate students to employ critical-thinking skills from the data and make management decisions much as professional wildlife biologists do, he said. “Hands-on activities are emphasized whenever possible,” Higginbotham said. The largemouth bass curricula includes nine science and 10 math lessons along with pre- and post-tests in Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills format. The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, commonly know as “TEKS” is used by Texas primary and secondary schools to evaluate reading, writing, math, science (no comma) and social studies skills.
Activities in the largemouth bass curricula include math and science vocabulary sections, and a crossword puzzle with a bass theme for both math and sciences. Warm-up exercises in both math and science problem solving build to pond scenarios where students must analyze data taken from real-life situations and come up with a management plan.
The white-tailed deer curriculum includes six math and eight science lesson plans and case history studies. As with the bass curriculum, vocabulary, word puzzles and warm-up exercises build to testing students problem-solving skills in scenarios taken from real-world situations.
Though Higginbotham designed the curricula primarily for use in high school math and science and vocational agriculture classrooms, other audiences could find them useful.
“Additional audiences for these lessons include landowners interested in learning the concepts of management on their own properties and youth groups interested in learning more about our wildlife resources,” he said.
One of those youth groups that use the curricula are the Texas Wildlife Brigades, a leadership development program developed by AgriLife Extension for high school youth ages 13-17.
Higginbotham has plans to add more lesson plans in the same format but focusing on other species and wildlife management issues.
“My vision is to have enough of these lessons plans to build a natural resources management course that is approved at the high school level and satisfies both math and science requirements,” he said.